The CIO's Growing Role: IT and Innovation - Page 2

May 12, 2011

CIOUpdate Contributor

Identify opportunities - Next, CIOs should generate a list of potential projects and improvements, including innovative game-changing ideas that deliver the values defined with executives during alignment building sessions. It’s also important to recognize that in many cases IT solutions must be coupled with process improvements to achieve a desired outcome. For example, implementing demand management solutions won’t deliver greater efficiency and savings if process bottlenecks impede collaboration among departments.

Assess impact - Potential projects should then be evaluated to determine which ones would have the greatest impact on the organization from a strategic, operational, and financial perspective. For each project, CIOs should work with management to compile a list of key dependencies and risks, current IT assets, estimated ROI and time-to-value, required resources, and critical success factors such as improvement to working capital, reductions in risk, or increased earnings.

Prioritize initiatives - With this impact analysis in hand, CIOs can begin to rank projects and opportunities by considering critical factors such as the timing and sequence, barriers to implementation, resource constraints, risks, and strategic importance.

Many organizations falter in this step because they aren’t realistic about the costs, resources, and time needed to manage projects. Organizations also risk either getting bogged down early in the process and losing steam or trying to do everything at once.

One way to address these challenges is to build a heat map -- a graphic illustration of where value lies across a range of initiatives -- that takes into account the organization’s strategy. In many cases, this prioritization exercise is coupled with a boundary setting exercise that establishes rules for projects based on factors such as geography, governance, and whether it’s more advantageous to build versus buy.

Plan resources - CIOs then must evaluate their organization’s capacity to manage and complete projects. When planning a project, organizations gauge internal resource availability and existing priorities. Other considerations include determining the risk of pulling line-level leaders away from current responsibilities to work on a strategic initiative with no strong back-fill to cover for them.

It is better to wait until back-fill resources are in place and up to speed before launching an initiative and risking day-to-day operations. For this reason, the first step in a road map simply might be planning and securing resources well in advance of building a solution or engaging third parties.

To avoid delaying projects or derailing them midstream, CIOs should recognize how the sequence and timing of projects will affect staffing levels.

Execute - A key to execution is maintaining momentum and stakeholder support. Therefore, CIOs should consider scheduling easy wins in the initial stages to gain enough momentum to sustain the initiative. This may lead to early wins such as simplifying a business process ahead of applying technology or upgrading some equipment to improve processing time.

While these early wins are not necessarily the game changers that CIOs need to deliver, they build the proper foundation to sustain momentum. In addition, CIOs will need to monitor projects and report on progress to the board at regular intervals to address any issues before they erode the organization’s appetite to complete all projects.


Seizing the opportunity

In this challenging new environment, CIOs will need to build a new set of skills to drive innovation and implement the series of projects necessary to generate measurable business results. On a fundamental level, it’s a matter of professional survival: those who aren’t effective won’t last long. However, CIOs that learn to adapt and use strategic planning tools such as road maps will be rewarded with high-profile opportunities to exert more influence on the organization.

Jeff Shaffer is with Crowe Horwath, one of the largest public accounting and consulting firms in the U.S. He can be reached at his Chicago office at 312.899.4493 or

Doug Schrock is a principal with Crowe in the New York office. He can be reached at 212.572.5545 or

Under its core purpose of “Building Value with Values,” Crowe assists public and private company clients in reaching their goals through audit, tax, advisory, risk and performance services. With 26 offices and 2,400 personnel, Crowe is recognized by many organizations as one of the country's best places to work. Crowe serves clients worldwide as an independent member of Crowe Horwath International, one of the largest networks in the world, consisting of more than 140 independent accounting and management consulting firms with offices in more than 400 cities around the world.

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